Galápagos Islands – Day 2

We sailed through the night to get to Genovesa Island.  During breakfast, I learned that many of the islands have 2 names.   One official name, and another name that pirates and buccaneers used in the past.  Genovesa was called Tower Island.   Personally, I think it is weird to continue to mark the old names on the map.  Do I have a reader that can explain that to me?

The Nemo III anchored in Darwin Bay and we took the dingy (also known as the panga) to Prince Phillip’s steps.   This is a steep path on the side of a cliff that leads to an enormous bird colony.  On our way to the steps, our dingy stalled in the middle of the bay.  No one seemed nervous and the dingy driver (captain?) had it working within minutes.   Oh Ecuador, somethings never change.   I do miss that tranquillo attitude sometimes.

When we got to the steps the tide was not acting as expected. Every 5 – 10 seconds the ocean level would change by 10 feet.  It was a precarious situation.   The dingy would push forward on the rock and we’d offload 2 people each time.   More than once it looked like we were going to lose a passenger, but in time we all made it to land.

Genovesa is an island ruled by birds. The nazca and red-footed boobies reign supreme on this island.   We hiked through the bird colony looking for the short-eared owl, which we eventually found hiding in a small cave.  The red-footed booby is my favorite Galápagos bird. The return to the boat was much less eventful.

Later that day we went snorkeling.   I loved it.  There were many schools of beautifully colored fish.  I cannot remember any of their names, but one type is called a bumphead.   That name makes me laugh and I started calling my cat “bumphead”, because she is always headbutting into things.

At the end of the day, we had a long haul sail back toward the center of the archipelago against the current.   This made for a pretty rough go of it for everyone.  Sam, Holly, and I all vomited.  Most of the other passengers had sleepless nights.   Even our guide considered it a very long night.

At breakfast the next day, the neighbors next to Sam and I mentioned: “It seemed like a violent night in your cabin.”  It really felt like that from our perspective as well.

Next: Isla Santiago

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Galápagos Islands – Day 1

We arrived at the Baltra airport without any trouble. We worried that the authorities may seize some chocolate we bought in Quito for gifts.  There are very strict rules for what is allowed onto the archipelago. In the end, we were okay and chocolates made it safely to the final destination.

Our guide’s name was Marcos.   He met us at the airport and took us to our boat, the Nemo III.   It’s a beautiful catamaranowned and operated by a respected and knowledgeable company.  Once we boarded, we learned about the boat and the other passengers.   We were with a family from Georgia and another family from the DC metro area.  I count myself lucky, as everyone was a joy to chat with while on the trip.  You can imagine how annoying it would be if people did not get along.

Mealtime was an interesting affair.   There were 2 tables and it meant that one group of passengers always needed to be split up. This forced everyone to sit with people outside of their clique at least one meal per day. After lunch on the boat, we sailed to Bachas Beach on the Island of Santa Cruz.

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Nemo III
Photo Credit: Josh Ferris

At Bachas Beach, we went for a hike and swam in the water.  While we were hiking we saw: marine iguanas, 4 flamingos, laughing gulls, eagle rays, sally lightfoot crabs, and a great blue heron (henceforth referred to as GBH).  The hike was short and was chock full of animals.   This was my first day, but I was already extremely excited.

On a personal note, my neck and shoulder started to ache that day.   It came out of nowhere and I struggled with it for the remained of the trip.   I am not sure what brought it on, but Holly and Samer tended to it during the coming week.

Next: Day #2 – Genovesa Island

Galápagos Islands – Introduction

We decided to go to the Galápagos Islands for a week.  Travel trailblazer and friend, Judy recommended the company she used when she visited the islands a few years ago.  We hired Nemo Galapagos Cruises and chose the 8-day northern route itinerary.

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A trip to the Galápagos Islands is not cheap.  This is a place I wanted to visit when I lived in Ecuador but was not able to afford it.  Many of my friends North American in Ecuador had visited by being a chaperone on a school trip or they visited when a parent came to visit.

We got to the islands by plane on Sunday and left following Sunday.   Almost everything was included in the cost of our cruise.  This included our food and our flight from Quito to the islands.  The company makes you sign a form that says you will not disclose how much you paid.  My advice: prices are negotiable.  The trip did not include our bar tab or our wetsuit rental.

I recommended that Sam read Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galápagos Islands by Michael D’Orso as an introduction to the Galápagos Islands.  It’s a good book that tells you a lot about the human history of the islands.   Humans are not indigenous to the islands, so it is a pretty short story.  I’ve never read On the Origin of Species by Darwin,  but one can imagine that would be an appropriate read as well.  At the very least you should watch David Attenborough narrate a nature documentary on the Galápagos Islands before you go.

Here is what we did during our week aboard Nemo III.  It was a wonderful trip that I am recommending to everyone.

Next: Galápagos Islands – Day 1

Thelma and Louise made it.

It was a great trip. I loved taking my mom on her first big trip to Europe. It was great to follow Cathy Brady through her journey to find relatives. I must give myself credit, that pairing my mom’s first trip and Brady’s search for her roots was a great idea. The two of them got a long swimmingly, and it actually freed me up to be on vacation, and not focus on being a host.

There are plenty of funny moments, not recorded in this travel log. Whenever I think of the phrases “I don’t give a shit,” “The pizza/water/view is better in Italy,” or a debate  on the ease in which one can procure an unlicensed water taxi, I’ll think of this trip. It was a good time.

And let me finish with this story. I was the third and final member of our party to vomit. On my way home, American Airlines fed me a pepperoni pizza as a snack. It was horrible. Within 20 minutes I started to get a headache and a knot in my stomach. When I got into my house I rushed to the bathroom and vomited. This poor man’s hot pocket, was complete and utter garbage and it made me puke. Normally, I have an iron stomach and rarely vomit, but this piece of trash served to me as food was an embarrassment to the food pyramid. Hell, it wasn’t even on the pyramid, it should be in the gutter of the cistern below the pyramid. Foul. American Airlines, you are terrible.

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DANGER! American Airlines pizza is microwaved food poisoning.

Not all pizza is the same.

Our AirBNB host, Genarro, offered to drive us to the train station in Sorrento for our visit to Pompeii. Instead of stopping at the train station he drove us all of the way to Pompeii! It was incredibly generous of him. We stopped for coffee at a road side gas station for coffees and sfogliette. He claimed that it was the best coffee in all of Sorrento.  My espresso was quite good and Glenda and Cathy loved their creme cafes.

On our way to the ruins of Pompeii, Genarro wanted to show us a church in the center of contemporary Pompeii. It was Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary. We were rushed for time, so it was just a quick peek inside. This is the first time my anxiety about timeliness came to a head with the relaxed nature of the trip. While we were in the church, communion was happening. Cathy expressed interest, but I was quick to remind her that this stop was not a visit. This was merely a quick peek and we needed to get back in the van if we were going to be on time for our Pompeii guide.

We met our tour guide at Pompeii. His name was Antonio and I thought he was excellent. We hired him through a company called Emiliano’s Archaeological tours. The sun was brutally hot and intense that day. Cathy decided to take a break half-way through the tour to check out the visitor center. Glenda and I stuck with the tour, but we were hot and exhausted when it was all over.  I am not sure what to say about Pompeii, but if you enjoy history you should go. I really loved learning about the city and the ancient/extinct culture.  It was super fascinating. It’s a massive site and we only saw 5% of it during our 2.5 hour tour.  Sexual libertinism seems to have been quite popular in ancient Pompeii.  The erotic art in the brothel is cool and silly.

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The people in Pompeii were really into big dicks.

When Pompeii was finished we grabbed the train to Naples to find pizza. We made our way to a pizzeria called Jeri, Oggi, Domani Trattoria-Pizzeria (Trattoria-Pizzeria Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) that was Sophia Loren themed. It was verified by the Naples Pizza Association (Vera Pizza Napoletana). That is how serious they take pizza in Naples. Pizzerias get certified. I want to be very clear. I am not a pizza snob. I love and prefer a slice of pizza from an uninteresting pizzeria when I am at home. I like cheap pizzas with things like pineapple and banana peppers on it. I’m into garbage pizza and I know it.

Then I had pizza in Naples. This was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. It was amazing. I am smiling as I write about it, it was that damn good. We ordered the Margarita DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta translates to Protected Designation of Origin), which just means the mozzarella and tomato sauce was a higher quality. The crust was perfect, the ingredients were delicious.   I loved it.

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Margarita DOP at Ieri, Oggi, Domani

After lunch, we planned to take a hop on hop off bus tour, but the last tour was at 5, and we didn’t get to the ticket counter until 4. The attendant suggested that we do not buy the ticket. We decided to take a taxi to the historic center of Naples.  We walked on a couple of old streets and looked into some shops, but did not spend much time in Naples.   We discussed taking the ferry back to Sorrento, but it left too early for us to be able to make that happen.  We said good-bye to Naples and took the express train back to Sorrento.  I’d like to return to Naples and dig into its art and museum scene in the future.

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An ancient street in Naples.

We returned to Naples for some shopping, a drink, and a small tram tour of downtown Sorrento.  After all of that we headed to dinner.  For our final meal in Sorrento we went to Restaurant Bagni Delfino.  This was the best meal of the entire trip for me.   It’s a nice Italian seafood restaurant on the water.  We had a lovely bottle of white wine from southern italy.  It was dry with a hint of citrus.  I really enjoyed it.  We started with a fried shrimp appetizer that was wonderful.  It was not overdone and the shrimp were soft and flavorful. It was perfect. Cathy had gnocchi with fresh arugula and shrimp; Glenda had pasta with clams, shrimp, and zucchini; and I had the seafood risotto.  We told the waiter we were celebrating Cathy’s 60th birthday and my mom’s upcoming 60th birthday.   They brought us tiramisu with a candle and limoncello for dessert.

 

When dinner was over we did not have Genarro to take us home.   We had the restaurant call us a taxi and they dropped us off at the top of our hill.   We took the 10 minute walk down the hill with our cell phones as flashlights.   We all went to bed pretty quickly when we got home.

Next: One last day in Italy

A speed boat to Capri

We took a boat to Capri on Monday. We hired the tour through our AirBnb rental. It was €95 for 8 hours. We met at the port in Sorrento at 9 AM and boarded with 8 other people. Our boat traveled along the Sorrento coast on a calm sea and lots of sun. Our captain’s name was Jean-Carlo and he brought his wife/girlfriend and daughter with him. We sat on the front of the boat and while we made our way to Capri. There was beer, prosecco, and aperol spritz. It was a lovely way to enjoy the sun and water. We made our way to the different grottos that are on the outside of Capri island. After the white grotto we anchored and swam from the side of the boat for 20 or 30 minutes. The water is a cobalt blue color that reminded me of the water off the northern coast of Oahu. It is beyond beautiful.

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A lot of different boat tours try to get into the grottos, so each boat needs to wait a few minutes. While we were waiting to get into the coral grotto, vomit spell number 2 hit our group. The boat was rocking enough to flip a stomach and within minutes one of us were vomiting off the side of the boat. The captain was incredibly accommodating and no one was judgmental. If you are keeping score: 3 people, 2 have vomited on this trip so far.

However, if you want to write a comedy scene (it was not funny in the moment) this could be a good one. Piture it: Youthful hard bodied lovers drinking proescco on the bow of a speed boat rushing toward Capri; Joie de vivre at its finest. This scene is juxtaposed next to a woman 2 to 3 times their age trying not to drop her sun hat while vomiting over the side of the same boat. Funny in the darkest sense possible.

Our tour included a Caprese sandwich at a restaurant for lunch. Cathy and Glenda stayed on the beach in Capri at Marina Piccolo and I hiked up to the main town. I had a lemon gelato and snapped a number of photos. On my way out I found a boutique in Capri that had the cutest shirts and I bought my husband one. If there is a god, I am praying to her right now. The shirt was way more money than I thought it was going to be so I am praying it fits him.

We made out way back to the boat. The transfer from the water taxi to our boat was only a slight issue for us and then we were back on the water. We tried to go to the Blue grotto but the sea was high and rough. Our guide said that he recommended that we do not try to get into it. We parked the boat in a nearby cove and went for one last swim.
On our way back to Sorrento a storm came in and the water was very rough. We all had to leave the sun deck and come back with the captain. When we made it Sorrento we discovered an elevator from the port to the main town for €1. We took it to town and had dinner at the Red Lion.

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This is my only bad meal of the entire trip. I decided to order a pizza. I was not paying close attention and saw “Sorrento Special” so I ordered it without really looking at it. What came was a white pizza (I never prefer it) with with a couple of types of meat (not a huge fan for pizzas), and french fries! Here’s the thing, was it prepared poorly? No, the execution seemed spot on, I just did not want that pizza. It was totally not my style. That’s on me and not the restaurant. Glenda had a good steak and Cathy ordered pasta with mixed seafood. Both liked their meals, though the thick noodle pasta (scialatielli) that Cathy ordered was not her cup of tea. We ended the night with gelato and Genarro volunteered to pick us up and drive us home. That’s right, I had gelato twice in one day.

Next: Not all pizza is the same.